A labour of love as Cooktown's iconic Shire Hall restoration takes shape

Protecting the history and heritage of Cooktown’s iconic Shire Hall on Helen Street was always going to take time, patience and a generous dose of tender loving care.

With works commencing in March, the hall’s heritage considerations have required that it be delicately reverse-constructed, levelled, and reinforced, before it could be painstakingly rebuilt, piece by piece, utilsing modern tools to replicate the same traditional building techniques used to construct the Hall in 1907.

With much of the structural remediation works complete, the last few weeks has seen the building start to resemble the much-loved Hall once again.

Pictured above: (Left) The back of the Shire Hall before the roof was removed, and
(Right) the extent of the structural remediation works to level and reinforce the hall's historic frame. 

Works to date have included, levelling and re-stumping the building with steel stumps; installing new bearers and joists to secure and stablise the floor and installation of new flooring.

Pictured above: (Left) The inside of the hall with the floor removed in order to re-stump the building with steel stumps, and
(Right) with remediation works complete, the floors have been replaced.

Roofing works have also recently started, with a crane due onsite in coming days that will allow for the installation of new trusses to stabilise the roof and allow for resheeting. Following that, insulation will be installed and the Hall will receive an exterior refresh with aesthetic repairs, repainting, and refinishing of all internal and external walls and floors.

Unearthing history

Along with the delicate process of restoring the Hall itself, in order to conserve and comply with heritage requirements, the project team has also had to ensure that any items found on site are carefully collected and photographed. These details are then sent to a Heritage Consultant. If the Heritage Consultant determines the item is of historical significance, the item is documented in detail, packaged up and labelled. Once the project is complete, Council will work with the Heritage Council to determine if and where these items will be stored or displayed.

To date, some of the items of interest found on site have included large metal lights, tools, an iron horseshoe, fragments of the hall’s original ceiling rose, storage and beverage bottles, cans (including an iconic can of Hanush’s Soda Squash that was produced in Cairns during the 60s and 70s), coins and other assorted curios.

Pictured above: (Left) A tool unearthed on the site, and
(Right) A collection of curios, including pieces of the original ceiling rose also found on site.

Pictured above: (Left) Historic glass bottle tops, stoppers and coins that have been documented and sent for assessment
by a Heritage Consultant, and (Right) another curios that has been found, documented and sent for assessment.

Works are progressing on track towards and are estimated to be completed by the end of October this year. 

The project is jointly funded by the Australian Government’s Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program committing $499,416.00 and the Queensland Government’s Works for Queensland, and COVID Works for Queensland programs, committing $1.5 million.

Pictured above: Another icon. An empty can of Hanush's Soda, that was produced in Cairns
during the 60s and 70s, has also been unearthed on site. 

ABN: 45 425 085 688

10 Furneaux Street Cooktown, Qld 4895

Mail: PO Box 3 Cooktown, Qld 4895


Phone: (07) 4082 0500

Fax: (07) 4082 0588

Hours: 8.45am-4.45pm Monday to Friday